1. Don't Keep Me Waiting
  2. Heaven & Earth
  3. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
  4. When A Blind Man Cries
  5. Trouble In Paradise
  6. Shadow Of The Tyburn Tree
  7. I Hate You So Much
  8. Dreams Of Desire
  9. Do You Ever Think Of Me
  10. Road To Melnibone
  11. Lose My Number
Stuart Smith is an English guitarist residing in Los Angeles, who has assembled one of the finest casts of musicians to ever grace a single album.
How can you knock an album that on the first four tracks, features the vocal talents of Kelly Hansen, Joe Lynn Turner, Glenn Hughes and Richie Sambora?!!
You can't! But it is the songs and the guitar playing of Stuart that counts, and all I can say there is that this album is crammed with some of the most inspiring, technically brilliant, passionate, absorbing and stylish playing that I have ever heard.
I was originally recommended to track down Stuart and get to the bottom of the Heaven And Earth project, and when I was to receive an advance tape I thought cool!
But nothing prepared me for just how good this album sounds.
The production is just superb, and is tight, well mixed, balanced, and big big big! Pat Reagan was the man behind the desk, and needs to be congratulated, and should be hired instantly for more work.
The big budget comes courtesy of electronics giant, Samsung, who will be releasing it in Korea & China and the licensing for the rest of the world. That is being handled by Doc McGhee, one of the most powerful and influential managers in the music business today.
Stu may get to see himself a household name, as the album is finished and the result of which is being reviewed here today.
The album includes a couple of great covers that I will go into more soon, and some killer originals that at one stage were being demo-ed to be included on the upcoming Unruly Child record. But they are Stu's songs, and thankfully they have all been retained for the Heaven And Earth album.
So to the album!
The band varies from track to track, but Stuart is featured on guitar throughout and keyboards are handled by Ray Rodriguez on 6 of the 11 tracks. Pat Regan handles the others bar one track that features Teddy Andreas (who has also played with Guns And Roses, and has his own solo record out).
Don't Keep Me Waiting starts by building into a huge burst of guitar and keyboards.
This track features Kelly Hansen on vocals, who sounds fucking amazing! The guy just keeps getting bigger and better. A big hard rocking track, with an amazing guitar and organ duel towards the end of the track. Big, bluesy and hard!
Heaven And Earth features a fabulous acoustic guitar into performed by Stuart and Howard Leese (Heart). Real mood music, with keys going in the background.
Then Joe Lynn Turners voice glides into the track, and we have this enormous acoustic driven build into a chorus from heaven. It picks up the pace to this racing chorus, with Joe emotionally singing like his life depends on it. An AOR anthem is ever there was one, with hooks, bridges and guitars everywhere. The awesome drum sound comes courtesy of Hurricane/Unruly Child drummer Jay Schellen.
The album slows down just a little for a cover of the Blind Lemon Jefferson tune See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.
The song intro's with some very smooth blues riffs, and a Glenn Hughes vocal that sees him enjoying himself thoroughly and sounding like the God he is. Reminiscent of his 'Blues' album vocals. Killer! Before the band kicks in there is a swampy acoustic jam with Stu on acoustic & Richie Sambora on Dobro.
The songs rocks out after a smooth intro and sees Stuart flexing his muscles again, playing all over this track.
The huge bass sound comes from the legendary Chuck Wright, of House Of Lords/Quiet Riot/Impellitteri, and drums are from Carmine Appice.
When A Blind Man Cries is a Deep Purple cover, and the first proper blues ballad of the album, and features Richie Sambora on vocal and guitar.
This has to be one of the smoothest tracks of all time. Stuart's laid back blues guitar solo is just amazing. The whole feel of this track with the organ going flat stick, and Sambora's vocals blowing away anything on his latest solo record. I could listen to this all day!
Anyway, enough of this slow stuff! Trouble In Paradise is a flat out rocker, still with some blues influences, both from the guitar and some real rock n roll piano/guitar dueling.
Kelly Hansen again sings like a devil, and pulls of some great screams. Just check out the ending!
The next track is a real departure. Shadow Of The Tyburn Tree is a tribute to the minstrel music of old England. Joe Lynn Turner is singing, and reminds me of the sound of the Deep Purple album 'Slaves And Masters'. This song is also far better than anything on the Blackmore's Night album. I am not sure if it is the great guitar sound, or a better song, a better vocal or just all three. Also a nice change of pace for the album.
I Hate You So Much gets is back into the hard rocking blues sounds, again with Joe on vocals. A great rocking party tune, with nice heavy guitar and some cool backing keyboards.
Dreams Of Desire is an instrumental that gives Stuart a chance to shine on his own. A fantastic guitar sound that is backed by Howard Leese from Heart on strings, and Pat Regan on keys. The songs bases itself around the classical tune by JS Bach. If only he could hear what is being done to it now! The keys are amazing and the guitar playing is fast and furious yet retains it's passion. One of the best instrumentals of the decade! I love it when it slows toward the end.
Do You Ever Think Of Me starts with more smooth and moody guitar, with Kelly Hansen whispering the verse, until the bridge and chorus bring things to the boil. Another huge AOR anthem, and a power ballad in the true sense of the word. This will be a big live favourite. Plenty of soloing for guitar fans.
Chuck Wright is again featured on Bass and plays on the last three tracks of the album, and Carmine Appice on drums.
Road To Melnibone is another instrumental that features Howard Leese on 12 string acoustic. A smooth and slower instrumental.
Lose My Number is the last track on the album, and sees it finish as it started - with a big hard rocking number.
Kelly Hansen sings, Chuck Wright, Jay Schellen, Ray Rodriguez and Stuart Smith play the power rock card. Just check out the solo on this one!
I can't praise this album enough. It is surely one of the best little gems that have passed through my hands while running the Hot Spot. I wait anxiously for the CD to arrive!
The album has plenty for everyone, including fans of blues rock, all things Purple (JLTurner, Hughes), fans of Kelly Hansen, Chuck Wright, Jay Schellen, Richie Sambora (outstanding), and the list goes on.
Like I said earlier - chock full of passion and masterful playing from all involved.
If you are a fan of rock and roll, this album is an absolute essential purchase.
Keep and eye on the newsdesk, and I will let you know when and where it will be available.
ESSENTIAL FOR FANS OF: Deep Purple / Blues Hard Rock / Joe Lynn Turner / Glenn Hughes